Should You Get Your Part 107 License?
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
There's a lot of buzz in the drone community about the benefits and downsides of obtaining your Part 107 license through the FAA. Is it right for you?
What’s the Part 107 certification anyway?
Simply put, if you plan to operate your drone commercially, you are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to obtain a Part 107 remote pilot certificate. If you’re making money from the use of your drone, whether it be through the sale of aerial imagery for art or real estate, or for the inspection of cell towers or other infrastructure, you need a license.
“But what if I’m just flying my drone for fun?” Good news! If you only intend to fly your drone recreationally, you don’t actually need a drone license. Just remember that if your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you’ll still need to register it with the FAA. Be aware that even if you’re only flying your drone for fun, you are still subject to basic rules and guidelines set forth by the FAA.
How do obtain my Part 107 certification?
To obtain your certificate, you’ll need to pass a 60-question, randomly-generated multiple choice test.
You’ll need to sign up for the knowledge test in advance, pay a fee of $150, and select a local testing center for the day of your test. There are two companies that currently administer the Part 107 knowledge test:
Simply call or email either test provider to get details on testing hours, locations, and logistics.
What’s covered on the knowledge test and how can I prepare?
Once you’ve registered for your exam, here’s where the fun begins! This test is designed to measure drone operators competency across a handful of subject areas including:
Rules & Regulations
You have many resources available to you to prepare for the test. There is now a plethora of online courses designed to help you pass the knowledge exam. It is also completely possible to study for this test on your own and without any paid resources. The FAA hosts plenty of free test-related information on its website.
In terms of online courses, I’m personally a fan of Jason and his crew over at RemotePilot101.com. Jason and his team are industry experts and have been providing educational resources for both manned and unmanned pilots for quite some time. For $149 you’ll receive access to their 13-module video course which includes prep quizzes and a final exam. I also recommend the Drone Study Buddy Test Prep from Sporty’s Pilot Shop; they maintain and frequently update a bank of test questions and allow you to create custom quizzes based on various subject areas. This is especially convenient if you need to brush up on certain subjects more than others, or if you are limited on time or like to study in small increments.
What are the benefits of being Part 107 certified?
1. Increased credibility
As with any industry, certification and credential requirements entail additional learning on the part of those looking to become certified. This can indicate to potential customers that you are a serious and dedicated commercial operator who knows the rules and can safely fly missions.
2. Permission to fly in controlled air spaces
With you remote license, you’re automatically able to fly in class G airspace within 5 miles of an airport. If you’re like us and fly in places like San Diego, this is a huge plus!
3. Enhanced knowledge
Unless you also pilot manned aircraft, you probably never imagined you’d know such much about aviation weather and airspace. And while the truth of it is that you’ll likely end up forgetting much of what you learned in preparation for the test (because not all of it is relevant for drone operations), you’ll likely be a much safer, more informed, and aware pilot. Certainly can’t hurt!
Are there any disadvantages to becoming getting certified?
It takes time and money to get certified. Additionally, as previously mentioned, you’ll likely spend time learning things that are ultimately not necessary to fly your drone commercially.
2. Increase scrutiny
While recreational drone pilots are still subject to many of the same rules, commercial operators are held to a much higher standard with regard to drone operations. If you are found to be in violation of basic rules, you risk losing your license or having other penalties imposed (remember, as a licensed pilot you now have no excuse for not knowing the rules!)
Is it worth it to get my Part 107?
It seems that there are very mixed reviews on whether or not it’s worth the time and financial investment required to obtain a remote pilot license. While it is unclear to what degree the FAA is actually enforcing 107 requirements at the moment, one can assume that as the consumer market and commercial applications of drones continue to grow enforcement will also likely ramp up. It is the primary mission of the FAA, after all, to ensure the safety of civil aviation and keep our friendly skies safe for manned and unmanned aircraft alike.
Ultimately, there are numerous factors to consider before pursuing your Part 107 certification. If you have the time and resources and intend to grow your drone-based business, you might very well benefit from the legitimacy of obtaining your license. And again, the additional knowledge you’ll gain in preparing for the test will most certainly make you a safer pilot.